Monday, October 31, 2005

Iraq-Niger-WMD: Oblivious to the Obvious

The inclination of the Bush administration to ignore the obvious is now well known. But, still, as more details come out about the great WMD debate inside the bureaucracy before the war, you have to shake your head. Joe Wilson's letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee last year refuting some of the assertions in the "additional comments" section of the report about his role in the Niger uranium inquiries includes a succinct chronology of the administration's self-deception. I find the following items particularly revealing:

  • On October 6, 2002, the CIA sent a second fax to the White House which said, "more on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points 1) the evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. 2) the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And 3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this in one of the two issues where we differed with the British." (Pg 56)

The war party in the administration saw such reservations as pusillanimous, and there is more than a whiff of CYA gas in the tone of that note. But whether such common sense arguments were firm or feeble, the administration just wasn't listening. (See Maureen Dowd's devastating critique of Cheney's clique and "that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.") Although U.N. inspections of Iraq began again with a vengeance in late 2002, the Bush administration did not hand off the dubious dossier on Niger uranium to the International Atomic Energy Agency until late February 2003. The then-deputy director Jacques Baute determined within a few minutes that the documents were forgeries. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (now a nobel laureate) reported this to the U.N. Security Council on March 7, 2003. But there was no way the administration would stop its roll toward war at that point. The invasion of Iraq began less than two weeks later.

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